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Barbican Meets: ECHO Rising Stars – Horacio Ferreira & Armida Quartet

In a series of double bills in Milton Court Concert Hall, ECHO Rising Stars features performances from emerging artists from across the European Concert Hall Organisation plus specially commissioned new work.

In the first of the performances at the Barbican, we talk to clarinettist Horacio Ferreira and German ensemble, Johanna Staemmler (second violin) from the Armida Quartet to learn more about their music, their cities and their upcoming performance.

What made you first want to make music?
Horacio Ferreira: In my hometown there is an amateur wind band and there I had my very first contact with clarinet music when I was eight. I grew up in a very small town called Pinheiro de Ázere, Portugal and everyone knew each other. At that time we didn’t have much to do in our hobbies so, to be part of the wind band meant being with other people and there we had the chance to do concerts and trips and visit many places…so, it was the social connections and the importance of the music in my hometown who seduced me.

Johanna Staemmler (Armida Quartet): This is, I guess, the same for the four of us: our parents are musicians. Maybe it was the childlike wish to copy them. Or perhaps the strong demand to express ourselves in tones.

What was the very first piece of music you bought?
HF: When I decided to learn music as a professional clarinettist I started to buy all my scores. But it was very special for me when I bought Mozart’s ‘Clarinet Concerto’.

JS: Mendelssohn and Bruch violin concertos in a recording with Maxim Vengerov.

Can you remember the first piece of music you learned to play?
HF: The very first song was a Portuguese popular song…but the first piece I learned to play in concert was ‘Complaint’ by Albert Beaucamp.

JS: As a quartet? Sure! We will never forget those first steps. It was Robert Schumann’s ‘String Quartet No 1 in A Minor’.

What excites you most about being an ECHO Rising Star?
HF: To have the chance to play all over Europe in such amazing halls, for different audiences and to be in contact with such amazing artists and colleagues.

JS: We are very excited to play in the acoustic of these prestigious concert halls. I mean, it is a huge difference if you hear the sound of the hall from the audience area, as a listener, or if you are actually on stage and able to ‘play’ with the sound. It is going to be very interesting!

What is one of your favourite things about touring?
HF: I enjoy being able to play for different audiences and show who I am and what I do best.

JS: It is just fantastic to meet so many people around the world and to make music in a context of social and cultural diversity. But very practically speaking, I also love the fact that I can finally read books on the train or wherever… I can’t find the time at home!

Tell us about why you’ve chosen this programme for your Milton Court performance?
HF: I will play two of the greatest masterpieces for clarinet and piano where I can show many colours and ideas. Weber is a very operatic writing and is a very virtuosic piece. Brahms is a very romantic piece altering between lyric and dramatic moments. The program is complemented with Hakola which I think is very rich in surprise and explores the sound and the creativity.

JS: Our programme is very versatile and kind of presents all aspects of string quartet music. Historically, the musical arc extends from Bach to Nikodijevic – from the very first works for four voices to a techno-influenced work. The music includes Janacek’s very emotional first string quartet and a great piece by Joseph Haydn which was his last string quartet. We love sharp contrasts and how they help us to visualize the bigger picture of the music.

If you could collaborate with anyone (past or present) who would it be?
HF: It’s very hard to answer this question…of course I would love to play as a soloist with the best orchestras or play in chamber music with great musicians. So, I think there’s the answer.

JS: Leonard Bernstein. His charisma and his work are evidence of human and musical greatness.

Horacio, in your performance, you’ll be performing a specially commissioned piece by Kimmo Hakola. How does it feel performing a work just for you?
HF: It feels very special to have the chance to play this piece, is something very personal and like a son, in a way. I will have the chance to create since the very first moment a new thing, I can compare to a scientist who find out something very important. I am creating through the Hakola’s piece a very new and personal music. I am glad for that!

And how does it feel to have Marko Nikodijevic compose a piece just for the Armida Quartet?
JS: It is an absolutely stunning piece about intoxication and rhythm. We feel very honoured to be the first string quartet to play it!

What was the last show you went to see?
HF: The last concerts I saw were in the last weekend of September – a marathon of concerts promoted by Portuguese Radio where I was also playing.

JS: A German comedy show with classical musicians, it is called ‘Ass-Dur’.

Where would you take a first time visitor to your home city?
HF: In my home city there are beautiful places, I think I would impress the people with the landscapes close to the Mondego’s river. The different greens and the different colours of the water surrounded by a very calm ambience make my home town a very special place and perfect to relax and walk around.

JS: To the Berlin Wall Memorial. We are privileged people, living in peace and prosperity and should not take that for granted. A string quartet is, and has to be, a democratic organism and we as the players feel like being ambassadors for the democratic idea.

ECHO Rising Stars: Horacio Ferreira & Armida Quartet perform in Milton Court Concert Hall on Wednesday 19 October.